Throughout the past week I’ve been well informed by a reader who works in the commercial television industry (who prefers to remain anonymous but is impartial). I tracked down the the final ratings for the Tour Down Under’s 2012 coverage and compared them to SBS’s ratings in 2011. The main points and analysis below are created from the exchanges I had with this gentleman along few of my own opinions interjected.

All of these figures referenced can be found here (but you need a paid subscription to access. Used with permission from OzTam – please see copyright disclaimer at bottom).

The ratings are broken down below (the percentage figures are the network share (what percentage of people watching Free-to-air TV were watching the TDU)):

Analysis

TdU Classic

9 Late Night Highlights – 112,000 7.1 – Consolidated figures a week later, up from 98k.

SBS Two 2011 – 27,000 LIVE 0.6%
SBS One 2011 – 16,000 highlights 2.5%

The first thing to point out is the increase of 14,000 people to the ratings of Nine’s TdU Classic highlights. Seven days after a program airs, the consolidated figures come in. These figures take into account viewers who have watched the program within those seven days on their PVR’s. 14k isn’t bad, and not unexpected given the timeslot. It was still far below CSI NY the week prior (265k), but smashed SBS’s coverage. Interestingly enough, Cycling Central pulled 39k the same night as the live classic! The live coverage may have suffered being on SBS Two with a lack of digital uptake by consumers.

But it didn’t stay like that…

Weekly Highlights

SBS in 2011 consistently performed higher than Nine during the week when their three telecasts were combined. One caveat: The 5min highlights at the end of the late news could have a skewed audience (ie. the news goes late/programming is running late) and that audience is actually watching the weather instead. There was no conclusive audience drop-off at that time however. Either way, the numbers are the numbers.

Stage One:

9 Late Night – 38,000 4.5%

SBS One 2011 – 89,000 Late / 53,000 evening 2.7% / 1.5%
SBS Two 2011 – 20,000 night 0.4%

Stage Two:

9 Late Night – 85,000 10.2%

SBS One 2011 – 79,000 Late / 63,000 evening 2.6% / 1.8%
SBS Two 2011 – 40,000 night 0.9%

Stage Three:

9 Late Night – 93,000 8.1%

SBS One 2011 – 68,000 Late / 65,000 evening 2.0% / 1.9%
SBS Two 2011 – 39,000 night 0.9%

Stage Four:

9 Late Night – 94,000 6.8%

SBS One 2011 – 142,000 Late / 50,000 evening 4.0% / 1.5%
SBS Two 2011 – 28,000 night 0.6%

Nine’s late night highlights increased through the week, as you’d expect given the growing hype coming closer to the finish. I don’t know about you, but I found there to be an increased news presence this year (over all outlets), be it because of the racing, GreenEdge, The Cadel Effect, or even Warniegate. It just feels to me like this event was bigger and more newsworthy than last year. I’d love to see the stats on that (you’ll have to find someone at Media Monitors who might be able to help!).

Live Weekend Stages

The two weekend live stages are quite something though. Nine absolutely dominated. This was the best comparison as both were live, similar times, similar durations. This is what the TDU organisers would have expected when signing with Nine. I can’t remember whether there was as much of Phil Liggett shilling the local attractions on SBS, but if that was a new thing, good timing.

Stage Five:

9 LIVE – 140,000 11.0

SBS One 2011 – 49,000 LIVE 4.3
SBS Two 2011 – 43,000 highlights 1.1%

Stage Six:

9 LIVE – 151,000 9.8

SBS One 2011 – 60,000 LIVE 3.1%
SBS Two 2011 – 16,000 highlights 0.3%

Summary

So, on the surface, this looks like a win for Nine, but in reality, it will have done some harm to the event with their late night ratings. If I were Ch9 and and saw the ratings at 38k for Stage One, I would have been very upset! Lucky for them, it climbed out of there.

The major winner here is Events SA, who have increased their audience considerably, and had a great event. I haven’t heard one bad thing about the actual TDU event itself, except for Valverde winning Stage 5(!) and of course negativity is towards Nine, and in some parts, towards Events SA from the cyclists.

It’s hard to say for certain that SBS couldn’t have pulled these figures if they had the broadcast rights this year. They have consistently had a great production for the whole event, and have done a great job promoting the event and cycling as a whole.  I had a chat with Mike Tomalaris who was positive about the whole situation and was spot on when he said that any increased ratings for Nine in the TDU will benefit SBS as they have the sport for the rest of the year. The TDU can appeal to casual viewers in Australia purely for the fact it’s in Australia with Australian riders, but the Tour of Flanders (for example) won’t, but SBS is much more likely than Nine to show that live, and with any luck, they’ll increase their viewers as more casual viewers become diehard-stay-up-until-1am-for-a-month viewers.

I commend SBS for their massive contribution for growing the sport in Australia and I know from first hand experience that the production crew has a genuine passion for cycling. Sometimes competition is a good thing however. In this instance it forced SBS to get more creative and seek out other angles to their coverage. I think they did an outstanding job this year with their web coverage and possibly even better than previous years.

As you can imagine, I want to stay impartial here. I have no problems with either Nine or SBS and all I want to see is more people watching cycling.

As you’d expect, it’s very hard to come to a conclusion on who the overall winner is. Perhaps a little bit like the overall GC! Nah…Gerro had it locked up all along…

Data © OzTAM Pty Limited 2011.  The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) without the prior written consent of OzTAM